5 Ways Minors Get Alcohol

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Typically, there are five ways minors get alcohol and they’re all illegal.

With school being out and summer getting into full swing, the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) and the Sheriff’s Department are urging parents to monitor their children’s activities to prevent underage drinking and reminding adults that it’s against the law to provide alcohol—and marijuana—to minors.

Minors are not allowed to purchase, possess or consume alcohol. Giving alcohol to a minor can lead to criminal penalties or, worse, the loss of a loved one. Whenever minors drink, one question must be asked: ‘Who provided the alcohol?’

All the cities in the region and the County of San Diego have “social host” ordinances which make it against the law to provide alcohol to a minor. The County and some cities have modified their ordinances to include marijuana. Adults who knowingly allow a minor to drink or use marijuana can be cited or arrested, face a fine of $1,000 or spend six months in jail. A “social host” is anyone who knowingly, or should have known, there was an underage drinking party on property they own, lease or otherwise control.

According to the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey, by the end of high school, 59 percent of all students had consumed more that a few sips of alcohol ad some time in their lives. About a quarter of them (24 percent) had done so by 8th grade.

Locally, the 2015-2017 California Healthy Kids Survey shows that 22.5 percent of San Diego County 11th graders, 14.6 percent of 7th grade students and 5.1 percent of 7th graders used alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey. At the same time, 2.3 percent of 7th graders, 9.5 percent of 9th grade students and 11.6 percent of 11th graders had consumed marijuana in the past 30 days.

But how do minors get alcohol? These are the five most common ways:

Parents, Older Siblings or Friends

Surprised? Don’t be. Teens say this is an easy way to get alcohol. They get it from friends or family members at parties, or by taking it without permission from home liquor cabinets.  Almost 72 percent of teens who drink get alcohol without having to pay for it.

Shoulder Tapping

Underage drinkers who pay for alcohol usually give money to someone else to buy it. Minors will hang out in the parking lot of liquor and convenience stores and ask a stranger to purchase alcohol for them.

Fake IDs

High school and college students sometimes use a fake ID to buy alcohol.

Failure to Check IDs

Minors sometimes get alcohol from store clerks who fail to check their ID or are willing to sell it to them even though they are minors.

They Steal It

Minors and their friends have reported stealing the alcohol or doing “beer runs” at a local store. This works because some stores place alcohol near the door or have “blind spots” that are not readily observable by store employees.  Minors sometimes also know some stores have policies that prevent employees from running after them.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact